5 tips on what businesses can learn from start-ups

Start-ups are adventurers that evoke desires that may have gone astray in day-to-day business. At the same time, they are hot on the heels of traditional companies for their potential sales and media attention. Ulrica Griffiths and Yvonne Baum of the communications agency Griffiths Consulting give advice to both start-ups and established companies. They demonstrate how long-established companies can keep up with this pace without handing over their top spot. 

What exactly do they want?

More often than not, people think in terms of products, not solutions: Only those who are very much in tune with their target group and its respective needs are able to roll out the perfect offer. One example of this is the Hesse-based start-up, dabelino. Its book about how to deal with the loss of a newborn baby titled "Sternenkind Erinnerungsbuch" has hit a nerve with its customers. Every business focuses on their respective target group, but does that mean that they are really in tune with it? Do myths persist that are long outdated? "Test your hypotheses" is a crucial start-up maxim: always reflect on your assumptions regarding the target group, the idea, and the product!

Free up space! 

Who is not familiar with this motivational adage: "Everyone knows it is impossible, until someone who didn't know came along and just did it." The problem when competing with start-ups is that they are made of people who just do things without ever engaging in debates like these. Many tradition-steeped companies benefit by creating innovation teams that have sufficient time on their hands and independent budgets to develop new things.

Step out of your comfort zone!

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?". Facebook asks its employees this question when they come to the Berlin office. When successful start-uppers pick up on a trend or a market, they immediately seize the opportunity. When the graphic designer Chelsea Shukov was asked if she would be able to mass produce a card design created for a client, she simply said yes and got going. That was the beginning of the global stationery success, Sugar Paper.

Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap!

The possibility of failure had been factored in. Mistakes were foreseeable. The crucial thing is knowing how to deal with them. Start-ups consider failure to be feedback. They are an opportunity and a crucial step in setting the course. To keep the risk small, a minimal product is built, trialled and immediately enhanced. 

Social marketing is a logical conclusion

Even in terms of communication, start-ups initially often forgo the one big mega concept and instead take an iterative and agile approach. Because the idea originates from the target group, there is no need to create the respective community; all that needs to be done is to find the right way to address it. Marketing is therefore often automatically social marketing on the very digital channels where the target group interacts.

Take a close look!

It is not so much about translating everything that start-ups devise to one's own organisation. Neither does that fit in with the process flows inherent in a large, established organisation, nor is it necessary to follow every single trend. Many businesses are centred on more than innovation alone – they simultaneously rely on developing their bread and butter business with all their strength. However, it is important to understand these principles and to ask oneself: Which thinking does this rely on and how and where does this way of thinking work for us? It is possible to test many different things through communication without having to overthrow production processes or product assortments.

5 Tips: Learning from the "young and the restless" 


  • What exactly is it that customers want? 
  • Free up space for creativity!
  • What would you do if you weren't afraid?
  • Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap!
  • Communicate right where your target group is!

What to do: New paths are created when having the courage to take them!

About the author

"We build bridges between brands and families!" – Griffiths Consulting is a communication agency that specialises in families, children and youngsters and triggers not only enthusiasm for brands but also makes sure that opinion leaders talk about these brands – both online and offline. The agency's founder, Ulrica Griffiths, was head of press and PR at Lego Central Europe before that. Yvonne Baum is a consultant for classic PR and digital communication on all channels. Griffiths Consulting is a partner to the International Public Relations Team (IPRTeam) – a global cooperation of owner-managed PR agencies.

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